A proper Estate Plan is essential for anyone who values their hard work and family. An Estate Plan refers to the establishment of instructions in the form of legal documents providing for the administration, management, and distribution of property/assets in case of death or incapacity.
Failing to prepare a proper Estate Plan can result in significant and unnecessary risks, costs, and burdens for your family and future generations upon your passing; some of which are as follows:
- Your estate may be required to go through Probate which can result in thousands of dollars of unnecessary court costs and attorney’s fees;
- Your assets and property become part of a formal Probate process which is a public proceeding;
- There is an increased likelihood of family emotional burdens and conflict regarding the deceased’s assets;
- Much of your assets can not be transferred or distributed to your loved ones for months or longer;
- There is a significant likelihood your assets and property will pass to your family according to state laws and only when approved by a Judge;
- Increased potential for Estate tax and creditor liability for your family; and more.
Working with Waller & Co. will make your Estate Planning process simple and efficient. Waller & Co. will create a custom Estate Plan for you and decide what the most advantageous way to administer, manage, and distribute your property and assets in the case of incapacity or death is. Our Estate Plans ensure your loved ones receive as much money as possible and in the precise manner you wish.
Here is our Estate Planning Process:
- An initial consultation occurs to discuss the client’s questions, concerns, wishes, and financial and family situation.
- Waller & Co. then analyzes each client’s special circumstances to create an Estate Planning guideline and strategy.
- The guideline and strategy Waller & Co. develops is addressed with the client and any additional concerns or questions are fielded.
- Waller & Co. then prepares the necessary legal documents required for a full and proper Estate Plan. During this time, our attorneys correspond with the client if there are any additional questions or clarification is needed.
- A basic Estate Plan generally consist of the following legal documents:
- Last Will and Testament
- Living Will
- HIPPA Form
- Power of Attorney for Property
- Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Certificate of Trust and Trust Summary
- Bill of Sale
- Comprehensive Transfer Document
- Self Proving Certificate of Execution
- Specific Gifts Upon Death Form
- The Estate Plan documents are reviewed with the client to ensure all of the specific information is correct and the client’s concerns are properly addressed.
- All Estate Plan documents are executed in duplicate.
- The Estate Plan documents are placed in a well organized binder for the client’s safekeeping.
Contact us today to learn more about our Estate Planning services!
Here are some of the answers to our clients’ most frequent questions regarding Estate Planning:
I thought all that I needed is a Will? A Will is a necessary document everyone should have but it does not address preventing your assets from going through Probate, being made public after your death, possible tax saving and gifting strategies for your family, and many other Estate Planning techniques that will benefit your heirs and future generations. Our Estate Plans also entail Power of Attorneys, Living Wills, a HIPPA form, and more that all clients will benefit from.
Why do I need a Trust? A trust is an arrangement under which one person, called a trustee, holds legal title to property for another person, called a beneficiary. You can be the trustee of your own trust, keeping full control over all property held in trust until your death; at which time your successor trustee is appointed. Our attorneys can draft a trust to achieve a multitude of objectives. At its most basic level, however, a trust keeps your assets and property out of the costly process of Probate, avoids having your financial circumstances become public information, increases one’s ability to apply tax saving and gifting techniques after they pass, creates more protection from creditors and third parties, and overall more flexibility and predictability in how your assets will be distributed after your death.
What if my family or financial circumstances change? A change in circumstances can be resolved via an amendment to your current Estate Plan. If the change is more significant, new Estate Planning documents may be needed. Contact our offices to discuss whether an amendment or change to your Estate Plan is necessary.
I designated beneficiaries on my various accounts, isn’t that enough? Not necessarily, some of your assets must still pass through Probate before they can be distributed.
Who ensures that all my property and assets get distributed properly when after I pass? Our Estate Plan documents address whom you wish to appoint as the Representative or Executor of your Estate. We also name successor and alternative successor Representatives in the event your initial choice is unable or unwilling to fulfill his or her duties as Representative. We will also address appointing powers of attorneys for property and health care decisions in the event one becomes seriously ill or injured and unable to attend to their affairs.
After one dies. Probate can be a lengthy and involved process. An effective Estate Plan developed by the attorneys at Waller & Co. can help avoid a complex Probate process. It includes:
- proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid;
- having an executor to administer and distribute your assets and property appointed by the court;
- identifying and inventorying the deceased’s assets and property;
- having the assets and property appraised;
- paying debts and taxes, and protecting family and friends from creditor claims to the extent possible within the laws; and
- distributing the assets and properties left over as the will (or the court, if there is no will) directs.
A family should hire an attorney to address the above complexities and formalities of Probate. Waller & Co. has represented hundreds of individuals and families in Probate court since our inception. Our attorneys are uniquely skilled to represent clients through the Probate process. Estate planning, tax matters, business decisions, and litigation issues all appear during the Probate process. Given our knowledge and experience in every one of those areas, Waller & Co. offers its Probate clients value added service.
Here is a general overview of working with Waller & Co. during Probate:
- An initial meeting occurs and the Probate process is thoroughly explained to the client. We discuss the deceased’s financial and family circumstances, and client’s questions and concerns are addressed.
- We advise our clients on what information and documentation of the deceased is needed to initiate the Probate process.
- Waller & Co. prepares the documents required by Probate Court, which include some of the following:
- Petition for Letters of Administration
- Affidavit of Heirship
- Copy of Will
- Oath and Bond
- Order for Appointment
- Notice to Heirs, etc.
- The death certificate, Will (if any), and the appropriate documents are filed with the Court and a Probate case is initiated
- All parties required to be notified under the law are notified
- A Court date is provided and, if no issues are present, our attorneys will have the Will officially validated and an Executor or Representative appointed by a Judge
- If issues are present, such as contesting family members, creditors of the Estate, etc., Waller & Co. works vigorously to address these matters in the most efficient and effective way for our client and the Estate..
- The appointed Executor or Representative pays of any obligations or creditors of the deceased’s estate.
- The appointed Executor or Representative fulfills his or her obligations to report to the Court the assets of the Estate
- Waller & Co. presents the details and plan of distribution of assets to the Court for approval
- Waller & Co. advises the Court to close the Probate case.
Here are some of the answers to our clients’ most frequent questions regarding Probate:
How does probate work? Probate occurs with or without a will but is more beneficial if the deceased has a valid will. This is why working with an attorney to prepare a proper Estate Plan is essential. When one passes without a will (e.g. Intestate), the court decides who receives the property regardless of what the deceased would have wished. In addition, passing without a will and proper Estate Plan requires a significant amount of extra hours your attorney must put in to finish the Probate process, which means added costs to your heirs. With a will and proper Estate Plan however, the deceased controls who receives their property, allowing provision for family and friends of their choosing, and lower attorney’s fees and court costs.
What occurs during probate? Shortly after the deceased’s death, the estate opens, and the will is probated for the court to prove its validity. If valid, the personal representative (court appointed if not listed in the will or if there is no will) or the executor (designated in the will) gathers the deceased’s property and assets and outstanding income. Once such is gathered, the personal administrator or executor pays outstanding debts submitted within the time deadline under the law. Outstanding estate taxes and the appropriate tax forms must also be paid and filed. The property and assets left over are then distributed to those listed in the will or according to the Judge’s order if no will. Once all assets and property are transferred, the probate process is finished and the estate is closed.
What are the costs involved in Probate? If the deceased died with a proper will and Estate Plan, assets and property are generally distributed by the personal representative or the executor without court supervision or approval (e.g. informal probate). This prevents the high costs of attorney fees and court costs incurred in formal probate, which is only used when there exists no will or the will is challenged, or held invalid.
How do I avoid formal probate and the unnecessary costs and problems it may bring my family? To avoid formal probate, as well as will contests and invalidity, partake in Estate Planning. Waller & Co. can draft the proper legal documents required to avoid intestacy, minimize the likelihood of will contests and invalidity, and the high costs associated with formal probate.
Is Probate used for anything else? Probate is useful when there are minor children or disabled person. In the event of the parents’ death, the court appoints a guardian to care for the children until majority age. As the legal guardian, this person has all the rights and responsibilities as a parent. A proper will and Estate Plan allows the deceased to control who is the guardian and assures their children are well loved and taken care of. Without a will and proper Estate Plan, however, the court appoints a guardian, which can be the closest blood relative, whom the deceased may not have chosen. In the event of a disabled person, a guardian of is also appointed under court supervision.
What should you do now? Contact Waller & Co. to help guide you through the probate process or to prepare your Estate Plan to ensure that your family and friends are cared for. Remember with Estate Planning, you control to whom and how your property and assets are transferred, as well as arrange for the care of minor children or the disabled. A proper Estate Plan will make the probate process easy for your family!